Protestants are tired of being conned

FROM Protestant Unionist

I read with interest some of the statements made by those in positions of leadership in the Protestant community, on the future of education in the Controlled sector in Lurgan, and frankly I’m almost lost for words.

They have been warned repeatedly over a number of years that the best way to preserve the Dickson Plan was to seize the initiative, and produce a strategic plan on the way forward that met the needs of all our children, and treated them all with equal respect. They failed to do this, and now the Dickson Plan is under serious threat. As predicted, they are now looking around for scapegoats to divert attention from themselves.

Those who tell us how well the Dickson Plan has served the community are not looking at the big picture. It has been a qualified success, but has serious flaws. I challenge our politicians, and I mean all of them, to pay a visit to Craigavon Senior High School, by the way it’s on Kitchen Hill, and then come back and tell your readers what the Dickson Plan has done for them.

People in our community who really care about all of our children, and genuinely support the Dickson Plan, believe that the only way forward is to have the three schools on the one site, and where better than Toberhewny? It would enable the three schools to work together, share facilities and unite the community. I invite those who oppose this solution to tell us why, because it ticks all the boxes.

We need to ask those who claim they want to “Save the Dickson Plan” exactly what they’re trying to save, or is this, as some people suspect, about social selection - and votes? The grammar school lobby - under the guise of supporting the Dickson Plan - is now calling on us all to rally to their cause. They have treated the children of Craigavon Senior High School like lepers for years, and they are now looking for our support. It’s a bit like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas.

To add insult to injury they now want to get rid of the problem by dumping the children in Craigavon. They haven’t even considered the damage that would do to the Junior High, and the community. Our community is at a crossroads, facing its biggest challenge for generations, and we have never been so ill-served by our leaders. They have a unique opportunity to promote education as an engine for change to unite our community, instead, they are shaping it into a false image that divides. I am forced to remind them that Protestants don’t do icons, they tear them down.

We need to be told our community is failing, and on life support, and it’s only a matter of time before someone switches it off and puts us out of our misery. The Nationalist community, to their credit, has moved past us, and moved on, leaving us trying to breathe life into an unwashed corpse. Those in positions of leadership have nothing to offer, only more of the same, spun with a liberal helping of bluff; that there is only one model for the Dickson Plan - and raising the spectre of Sinn Fein. Protestants are tired being conned.

Politicians use us on their way up, and wave goodbye at the summit. We need leaders with vision and courage, anything less will keep us languishing in the past, struggling to play catch-up. In short, our community needs to make a fresh start, and where better to start than with the children. There are no sound educational reasons for continuing to divide our children. People can dress it up whatever way they like, but it always comes back to the same thing. I invite your readers to draw their own conclusion, it’s not rocket science?

As the Nationalist community look on in disbelief, I hope they spare our blushes by hiding their amusement. As we stand with our begging bowl, I hope they will not add to our humiliation by donating their ‘small change’. It’s sad our community can fall so far, and still fly blind. If only we could see ourselves as others see us. That’s always the first step to finding a way back.